MNopedia Tech Specs
Development of the MNopedia project took many familiar turns, and maybe an unusual twist or two along the way.
Creating a resource like this, from within a large institution like MHS, requires—of course—quite a bit of brainstorming, negotiating, and various forms of communication among the many parties with vested interests.
In addition, with this being a Legacy project—funded by many, many pennies from Minnesotans and others through state sales tax—we were determined to give the public a real role, both initially and on-goingly.
We were also conscious of the need to establish a strong foundation—technically, and in many other ways—so the project (and its partnerships) could grow to the point that the content truly becomes comprehensive enough to be called encyclopedic, and that the resource would be capable of receiving and reflecting many perspectives.
What follows is a technical description of the project written while in production:
The MNopedia was conceived not as a Web site, but as a pure content resource, capable of informing many possible products—the first of which being a browser-readable site for use on desktop and laptop computers, tablets, mobile phones, and any device that enables basic Web access.
By building a flexible, standards-based database and API, MNopedia content can eventually be used in mobile apps, audience- or situation-specific products, as a component in other Web projects, for print publication(s), etc.—whether these products are created by the Minnesota Historical Society or other individuals or entities.
Most text content is licensed via Creative Commons (Attribution ShareAlike), and media (images, audio, and video) is subject to terms already defined and expressed by MHS, and specific to each asset.
With careful consideration of Wikipedia and consultation with the Wikimedia Foundation and Minnesota-based Wikipedia editors, MNopedia content rights and ease-of-citation will allow the smoothest possible flow into Wikipedia, the world’s most accessed knowledge resource for encyclopedic information.
With regard to social media and the role of the audience as contributor, several user feedback mechanisms (whether built-in or external) will be used relative to the MNopedia resource, including commenting, forums, suggestion and correction mechanisms, etc. Social Media sharing will be built in, and MNopedia-specific Facebook and Twitter presences will be established and maintained.
The following list contains the essential technological building blocks for the MNopedia, and the initial Web site in particular:
- Database: MySQL
- Metadata Standard: Dublin Core (specifically, DCTERMS) (One set for textual articles, one set for media)
- Web Framework: Drupal (version 7) (an open source, PHP-based content management system and framework)
- Notable Drupal Plugins/Modules: Biblio for importing and managing bibliographic lists, Views OAI-PMH plugin (both developed by a Canadian programmer, and funded in part by the MNopedia project), and Timemap (for displaying both spatial and temporal data through a map interface)
- Search: Using built-in Drupal search capabilities initially, with plans to integrate Solr-Lucene for advanced features
- Geo-tagging: Spatial information for articles (addresses and lat/long coordinates) is being stored in the database’s Location field. Media geo-tagging—when available—is tied to each asset in its already-published context (MHS’ Visual Resources Database or Collections Online)
- API: Queryable OAI-PMH feed. Future plans are to develop a REST interface to allow access to all content, including images
- Editorial Workflow Tool(s): TBD (currently editing in Microsoft Word for small, initial batch of content). Strong possibility—Open Atrium